Saturday, March 9

Catching Up and Getting Simple

Today is a beautiful day, and not just because it's sunny with a high in the low 80s here in Florida.  It's a beautiful day because I just wrapped up my federal tax return and business returns.  Even better, due to higher spending on the rental properties last year I will be getting a sizable refund this year.  Last year I had a big tax bill.

Filing taxes was easier this year.  Most of the meeting jobs I do have converted from 1099 to W-2, significantly cutting down on record keeping and forms to fill out.  My goal though is to keep simplifying my finances.  Here's what I'm working on in 2019:

Simplifying Finances, 2019...

  • A few years ago I opened a Health Savings Account.  Since I no longer have a high-deductible health plan, I can't add funds to the HSA.  I plan to withdraw the balance in this account this year as I have medical expenses.  Goal is to close it out by yearend.
  • I was one of the original adopters of Prosper, even attending Prosper Days back when it first started (the memories!).  The returns on this platform aren't meaningful enough to continue using it, so I've been withdrawing funds from it every time I had $100 available.  Some of the loans I made on Prosper mature at the end of 2022, so this is going to be a slow process.
  • I'm "shopping" the Birmingham townhomes to potential investors.  There's a good chance the sale won't go through, but I do have an interested buyer under contract.  These townhouses have been cash cows over the years, but the neighborhood has steadily declined and turnover costs are too high.  We've been thinking about adding another AirBNB property eventually, so if I do sell the townhouses, I'd potentially use the proceeds to fund another BNB here in Florida.

Having Fun, More Frugally...

We love to travel, but I don't like paying for it.  This year I'll spend every time finding ways to cut costs in the "fun" category, while not cutting back on fun.

  • Last month I opened a new credit card, the Marriott Bonvoy AMEX.  I did this for the bonus:  100,000 Marriott Rewards after spending $5,000 in three months.  This will get us several free nights in Marriott-branded properties.
  • We booked a trip to China through UTO Vacations.  It's 8 nights, and includes flights from New York, flights within China, hotels and tours.  It was only $299 per person, plus the cost of a Chinese Visa and gratuities.  Since it seemed too good to be true, I did a lot of research beforehand.  The "catch" to this incredible price is that our trip is subsidized by requiring us to visit specific stores in China on each tour.  Apparently the merchants pay a fee to the company to entice the tour to visit the store.  Overall it was a reasonable compromise, as each store visit only lasts an hour and there are only a handful of these along the way.  I liken it to doing a timeshare presentation:  the trip is substantially discounted as long as you listen to the sales pitch.

Last, but not least, is simplifying our "stuff".  This is an ongoing process that will never end.  I should probably wait until I've gathered some things to get rid of and then write another post on that.  Until then... have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 7

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $8,717


It's important to remind everybody that I am including business and personal expenses in these reports.  Business expenses are a necessary part of growing my income.  But there's a difference between buying sheets for my AirBnB and paying for a restaurant meal.  Nonetheless, it is all listed below.

I have switched from Quicken to a customized spreadsheet to manage my finances.  As part of that transition I have consolidated some categories.  I am also now reporting business expenses.  Previously I did not include rental property expenses. It's all designed to simplify managing my money.

The Good

Because the meeting jobs often provide us meals, our spending on food was really low:  $90.  I can't remember the last time it was so low.  Meeting work also meant less spending on gas for the car.  However, that was offset by a repair in February to fix an oil leak.

The Not-So-Good

I spent $1,500 on "fun".  This is a new category in 2019 that consolidates spending on vacations, entertainment, gambling, etc.  In February, I made a payment towards our next exotic vacation:  China.  We are going there in October.  We also took a trip to Vegas and Seattle at the end of the month, so some of the spending was on this trip.

I also had to have more minor dental work done last month.  Lastly, bank fees and interest.  I paid the annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which is $450.  I will get $300 in travel credits which will offset the cost of having this card.  I also paid some interest on two credit cards.  Rather than covering my balance with money from my investment accounts, I decided to keep an oustanding balance and just pay interest on it.  This isn't the cheapest way to do things, but I have my reasons.

February Expenses:  $8,717

$500 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$460 Bank Fees
$96 Clothing/ Personal Care
$1,525 Fun (vacations movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets) 
$90 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$982 Health & Dental
$1,310 Household/Mortgage Payment/Home Repair
$0 Investment Expense
$105 Interest Expense*
$118 Miscellaneous
$0 Taxes (Quarterly Tax Payment)
$0 App Jobs Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$0 Unreimbursed Employee Expenses
$280 Utilities
$2,777  Rental Property Expenses
$474 AirBNB Expenses

*Interest expense includes student loans.  As the rate is below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off this loan.  

Tuesday, March 5

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $12,519


My income in February was good.
  • Meeting jobs took up the majority of my time.
  • One rental property is vacant; everything else is occupied with rent paid.  I m now including homes owned through my retirement accounts.
  • We had one 28 day rental at the AirBNB.  When I first went live with our rental, I had extremely low rates and a 20% off promotion.  This was the last vestige of that promotional activity.  I estimate our February income could have been $1,500 higher if I had been charging market rates in February.
  • My investment account barely changed.

February Income: $12,519

$336 Mystery Shopping
$3,239 Meeting Jobs
$0 Gig Apps (Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Doordash)
$646 Amazon Deliveries
$6,840 Rental Income
$1,431 AirBnB Income
$26 Interest Income
$0 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value (Excludes IRAs):  $423


Monday, February 11

My Frugal Miser - January Expenses: $12,996


January was another fairly expensive month.

I have switched from Quicken to a customized spreadsheet to manage my finances.  As part of that transition I have consolidated some categories.  I am also now reporting business expenses.  Previously I did not include rental property expenses. It's all designed to simplify managing my money.

  • We spent a week in Birmingham working on the empty townhouse.  I had to replace the cabinets and countertops, which was a $6,000 expense.
  • Food spending was high. We ate out every day while we were in Birmingham.  We eat restaurant food way too much.
  • I switched from an ACA health plan to one called Liberty Healthshare.  The monthly premiums are higher but overall it should lower my health expense.

January Expenses:  $12,996

$209 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$0 Bank Fees
$47 Clothing/ Personal Care
$15 Fun (vacations movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets) 
$583 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$1,331 Household/Mortgage Payment/Home Repair
$0 Investment Expense
$77 Interest Expense*
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Taxes (Quarterly Tax Payment)
$0 App Jobs Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$101 Unreimbursed Employee Expenses
$110 Utilities
$8,343 Rental Property Expenses

*Interest expense includes student loans.  As the rate is below 2%, I am completely comfortable paying the interest each month and investing the money that I would otherwise use to pay off this loan.